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An eight-week study of patients with posttraumatic stress disorder who participated in equine-assisted therapy found evidence at the neurobiological level that such programs are effective in treating the ailment, which may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a harrowing event.
Columbia University Irving Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute researchers, under the auspices of the Man O’ War Project, published the findings in a new study in Human Brain Mapping, “Neural changes following equine‐assisted therapy (EAT) for posttraumatic stress disorder: A longitudinal multimodal imaging study.”
State-of-the-art technology was used to look at changes in brain regions key to fear and emotional processing. Dr. Yuval Neria, who led the Columbia team with Dr. Prudence Fisher, said the MRI data showed remarkable results.
“The results provide the first-of-its-kind proof that equine-assisted treatment may have not only clinical promise,” Neria said, “but also brain based changes that may increase a patient’s capacity to enjoy life despite facing traumas and war adversities, which makes this treatment so unique.”
“The results from this study are very exciting for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who suffer from PTSD,” said Dr. Fisher.
The Man O’ War Project is the first university-led research study to examine the effectiveness of equine-assisted therapy in treating veterans with PTSD. Founded in 2015 by philanthropist, businessman, and ambassador Earle I. Mack, a veteran himself and longtime Thoroughbred owner/breeder, the project was born out of his concern about the mental health crisis facing veterans and his observation of anecdotal stories from various equine-assisted therapy groups, yet no hard science to support their results.
Among the others providing principal funding for the study were the David and Julia Koch Foundation; Ganek Family Foundation; Gerald Parsky; Gulfstream Park Racing Association; The Jockey Club; Live Oak Foundation; Mary and Daniel Loughran Foundation; Meta Aerospace Capital; Nicholson Family Charity Fund; Peter M. Brant; Reid Family Charitable Fund; Tactical Air Support; and Viola Foundation.